Book review by Kate Rogers
“My mother’s toes are / crooked and curled / in a misguided, arthritic map / of rain days,” writes Jennifer Hosein in the eponymous poem of her debut collection, A Map of Rain Days. In these lines there is a conflation of body and world, but also of space and time. Time becomes an entity that is spatially translatable and cartographically organizable. This is a conceit that manifests in a variety of ways over the course of the book, with the speaker’s personal history folding, unfolding, refolding in non-chronological complexity, often as not invoked by a particular locale being seen or remembered. Like rain, which comes and goes, is here and not, but is always, always (and necessarily) returning, the speaker’s suffering is not presented as a phenomenon that she will progress beyond or definitively escape from. There is no world without rain, and trauma is a recurrent (but never ceaseless or omnipresent) element of the speaker’s environment. Alternating between vivacious and restrained, Hosein’s poems are alive to the panoply of human experience.
this is a seriously beautiful collection of fragile poems. the imagery in here is fantastic and hosein’s style and voice are so unique. these poems are like bruises in the way that it doesn’t hurt if you run over it lightly but the second you press in just a bit deeper the wound begins to sting. there is a real fragility and delicacy in the way hosein paints love and history and relationships and family. it feels so brutal but soft at the same time. i loveddd hosein’s imagery and metaphors it was so realistic yet intricately whimsical.
I devoured the book in one sitting. I woke up, and I reread it, revisiting some poems that spoke to my soul. It’s an emotional, intimate collection of poems covering several diverse topics, including the death of a loved one, being in love, suicide, racism, loneliness. The book is divided into chapters. It feels like the poet is holding our hand, inviting us on a journey with her, allowing us to discover different chapters of her life.
There were so many poems I loved in this collection. To name a few: ” I love You”, “Widow”,
” Oubliette”, “Vessel”, ” Poison-Drunk”, “Fists”, ” Cabin”, “Subterfuge”, “Used to”, “History”, “Weekend”, “Ebb”, “Mouth”, “Crow’s Feet”, “Romance”, “Song”, Leap Day”, “Fall”, “Ink”, “Unfamiliar”, “Mon Pays”, “Milk”, “Pacific”, “Fog”, “Dead Boys”, “Conductor”.
The poems that I identified a lot with were the ones talking about problematic romantic relationships, relationships where emotions of sadness were the norm, relationships where darkness prevailed, relationships that leave a deep mark on the soul, a mark that you struggle to get rid of ( ” Mouth”: I reach/into the back/of my mouth/ to pull pieces of you/out).
This kind of love tricks you, inviting you in with the promise of passion, emptying your soul, poisoning you ( Fall: ” Once you were air/then you were cinders/that I spat up now/and then),
and scattering your pieces in the ocean ( Pacific: ” When you swim with her ashes in the Pacific/ her kiss tucks you back/ into the swirling ruckus/she left behind”).
You struggle to break free but the scars are there ( Crow’s feet: “Inked on my face/are shadows that you left/behind, imprints/ of your lovers’ hands ) and you have to constantly fight to break free, to breathe again ( Fall: ” …to pull pieces of you/ out. But they stick/ so I choke and fumble), to not end up living for him, disappearing into nothingness ( History: ” Look at me/on his bed/History/ will not untie me/His story, always his/story. Someone’s his/ story).
The poem “Oubliette” sounds like a dark fairy tale, the image of a trapped man, waiting for the reward of his patience: his love to be reciprocated. This never happens. When the woman decides she is ready to give back, he has disappeared.
” She put him in the oubliette and locked it…. Finally she came, to collect his love, but he had turned to dust”
The poem “Poison-Drunk” describes how deeply the scars of betrayal hurt and how difficult it is to trust other people and yourself
” You say,
Believe me it won’t hurt
I never believe you.
I sit up awaiting
In the poem “Unfamiliar” the writer wonders how her parents managed to grow roots in a foreign place. She wishes she had asked them to share with her this wisdom, this inner strength she needs to feel connected to this land.
p. 45 ” I wish I has asked.
Tell me about my skin…
How did my father learn to put his feet down
on unfamiliar soil?
My mother’s steps
had a ring to them of certainty. She knew.
I did not”
I would recommend this hauntingly beautiful collection of poems by Jennifer Hosein to everyone.